Old conflicts in the new Europe

A meeting of the prime ministers from a so-called Vysehrad group was scheduled for March 1. The group joins four Eastern-European countries – Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland. The group is designed for coordination of the countries’ positions on entry to the European Union. On the very eve the meeting was postponed.

Appearance of Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban at one of the European Parliament sessions in Strasbourg caused a scandal. The prime minister demanded abolishment of the Benes post-war laws from the Czech Republic. According to the laws of Czechoslovakia’s first post-war president Edvard Benes, property of the Germans and Hungarians cooperating with the nazis in WWII was to be nationalized. Mr.Orban thinks, the Benes laws contradicted the European law, and abolishment of the laws was obligatory for entry of the Czech Republic and Slovakia into the European Union.

Of course, the authorities of the Czech Republic and Slovakia protest against the demand. Slovakia’s President Rudolf Shuster admits that much has been done wrong after the war, but it was not necessary to abolish the laws. At that, Czech and Slovak politicians agree with the position, Poland also supports the opinion.

Prague and Bratislava are reluctant to abolish the Benes laws for several reasons. Prague still remembers participation of the Sudeten Germans in breaking Czechoslovakia’s independence in 1939. In addition, formal abolishment of the laws would cause a wave of claims as for the property restitution. Lots of juridical and economic problems will arise at that.

Such an influential ally as Germany supports Hungary’s position. In Germany the society of Sudeten Germans ousted from Czechoslovakia after the war enjoys great authority. For this very reason German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder even wants to cancel his tour to Prague scheduled for end of March. It is easy to be understood, because the democrats do not want the opposition represented by Germany’s Christian-democratic union to use the Sudeten problem at the general elections in Germany in September. If the problem arises, social-democrats will hardly win the elections.

The coming elections became another reason for Mr.Orban to speak in public. Elections in Hungary are scheduled for April. The prime minister seems to have used a proved trick – when there are no achievements in the economic and social spheres, the voters are to be switched to other problems. The Benes laws have come in handy for this very purpose.

The authorities of the Czech Republic and Slovakia are to be patient, as the conflict does not promise to last for long. When the elections are over in Hungary and Germany, the situation will recover. This will also mean restoration of peace and mutual understanding in the Vysehrad group.

Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/03/02/37753.html

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